man working on his laptopAccessibility is a critical, ongoing conversation in business and consumer technology. This is even more true when that technology is employed by federal agencies. Technology that is not equally accessible will limit how employees and citizens can participate in important civic functions.

Microsoft takes its responsibility to users and federal partners seriously, and has worked to maintain accurate reporting. With the increasing complexity of software, Microsoft has recently overhauled its reporting system to simplify how agencies interface with these reports. These reports save agencies time in maintaining their accessibility records tied to Microsoft products.

Streamlining conformance reporting to help government agencies with documentation

For federal agencies, accessibility isn’t an option—it’s the law. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires technology used or procured by a federal agency be evaluated against accessibility standards. The federal government now uses the term Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR), and the industry has followed suit. These reports provide critical information on the accessibility features of technological products.

Providing ACRs can prove to be a challenge; however, Microsoft provides robust and accurate ACRs for its federal partners.

These changes in ACR organization and distribution are intended to support Microsoft partners in federal agencies by increasing efficiencies for employees. Now, finding product-specific ACRs is easier, updating is simpler, and 508 officers don’t need to be Microsoft product experts to find the right information. Most importantly, this system supports 508 efforts over time.

Reorganizing accessibility documentation for more efficient reporting

Microsoft’s goal in updating its ACR system was to make it easier for agencies to get the accessibility documentation they need. Microsoft has made reporting scalable and more readily available for those tasked with 508 conformance in their specific agency. Even more, Microsoft has implemented a new method of mapping products based on the needs of customers around their usage, procurement, and ACR suites.

Instead of focusing on products individually, engineers and documenters in Microsoft built an interface that maps products to suites and publishes these suites to the web regularly. These mappings are used to produce ACR manifests, where an agency pulling ACRs as a suite of products would have a complete and up-to-date list of products in that suite. This manifest also helps with updates—as products receive new updates, tracking down updated ACRs is as simple as checking against an updated manifest.

Federal partners often post ACRs as part of their record-keeping requirements. The new Microsoft ACR system gives agencies several ways to utilize reports as they need:

  1. With a large central document including references and links.
  2. Through an XML file so that the end user can transform the document as they need for reporting or presentation.
  3. Using a JSON file to make it easier to embed the documents in websites.

Not only are the documents mapped within their existing product suites, but they are now more readily available to digest, transform, and publish.

Building efficient product solutions to support federal government employees

Providing ACR package suites is an opportunity for all technology companies. More technology companies should increase investments in maintaining accessibility across their platforms to benefit everyone and create more inclusive user experiences. Learn more about how the accessibility features in Microsoft 365 empower everyone to do their best work.

Take a deep dive into Microsoft products and see the new accessibility suite reports with the Microsoft Accessibility Conformance Reports database.